FCPS seeks input on how to spend millions in pandemic relief money

·2 min read

Jul. 22—Frederick County Public Schools is seeking community input on how it should spend nearly $38 million in federal coronavirus relief money.

Until July 27, community members can share feedback on a proposed list of updates and new programs to be funded with the $37.9 million FCPS will receive through the American Rescue Plan. The list, which FCPS released Tuesday, targets five main issues: learning loss, student health, staff retention, technology upgrades and community engagement.

The items on the list run the gamut of pandemic recovery, from a 24/7 homework helpline for middle and high schoolers to expanded therapy services for uninsured students to updated technology infrastructure. FCPS compiled the list based on input from its staff and "various stakeholders," according to a news release.

"We're just looking for the public to please review these items and let us know if you think they're properly prioritized," Leslie Pellegrino, the system's chief financial officer, told the News-Post. "And let us know if there's any additional areas that they might want to suggest that we look into."

The money heading to FCPS comes from a pool of about $122 billion the U.S. Department of Education is distributing to state education departments, which will then divide it among their districts.

About $2 billion of the total funding is earmarked for Maryland.

The grant guidelines mandate that 20 percent of the funds — which FCPS will be able to use through September 2024 — go toward combating learning loss and unfinished instruction, Pellegrino said. And the American Rescue Plan urges states to develop programming specifically for underserved groups, such as low-income students, racial and ethnic minorities and children who are in foster care or experiencing homelessness.

English-language coaches for high school students and a "transition program" to help students after psychiatric hospitalizations are among FCPS' possible funding priorities.

The system plans to use a portion of the money to update HVAC systems at Glade and Kemptown elementary schools, as well as the Career and Technology Center. Guidelines for the grant allow coverage of air quality updates, Pellegrino said, and those facilities were the best candidates.

"This grant wants us to focus on how we respond to the pandemic," Pellegrino said, "but also, how would we respond if there is another type of pandemic?"

The school system must finalize its plans for the state education department by July 30, Pellegrino said. But until then, it has the freedom to shift priorities and add or subtract items.

Community members can view the proposed funding list and provide feedback at fcps.org/fis cal/arp-esser.

Follow Jillian Atelsek on Twitter: @jillian_atelsek

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